Archive for January, 2010

Training Strategies: Planning and Preparation

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Over the last two weeks we’ve maintained that a lack of training is the Achilles heel of club operations.  Without formal and consistent training, a great number of clubs suffer from high employee turnover, member complaints about poor service, lack of organization, and generally inefficient operations — all of which have a negative impact on member satisfaction, recruitment, and retention, and ultimately the bottom line.

Here are some of the strategies to design and field a more robust, formal training program for both line employees and management:

1.   Start with a plan.  As with any major project, there must be a plan.  Things to consider when planning include:  goals, program requirements, training principles, impacted positions, priorities, budget, timelines and milestones, curricula by position, equipment and supplies, resources and materials, benchmarking, administration and documentation, annual certifications, plan and implementation review, and designated responsibilities.

Tip:  Check out the sample Club Training Plan on the Club Resources International (CRI) website for ideas.

Tip:  Start small and grow.  You don’t have to do everything at once.  Pick key member-facing positions with the greatest number of employees to get your biggest bang for the buck.  But don’t forget the importance of manager/supervisor training.  In the long run a well-trained, knowledgeable, consistent, and disciplined management team will be far more valuable to your success than anything else.

2.   Appoint a Training Manager to shepherd the project.  Assign this responsibility to an existing department head.  This individual will draft and present the plan, oversee its implementation, and report directly to the General Manager on plan progress and developments.

Tip:  The training initiative must have the absolute and enthusiastic support, backing, and “will to make it happen” of the General Manager or it won’t go anywhere.

3.   Charge each department head with the task of developing a curriculum outline for each position in his or her department.  These are the topics that employees in any given position must be familiar with.  Much of this information should be written, but some must be communicated or taught by other means, such as demonstrations, videos, DVD’s, etc.  In addition to the “what” (curriculum topics by position), the outline should also include “who” must learn the material, “when” it must be learned, and “how often” it must be taught for material that requires ongoing refresher training, such as sexual harassment, safety training, sanitation, and others.

Tip:  For service skills positions, the standard four-step training process of “Tell-Show-Do-Review” can be improved upon by Jim Sullivan’s 7-step process:  1.  Say What:  explain what will be covered, 2.  Say Why:  explain why the information is important, 3.  Show How:  demonstrate the correct way, 4.  Detail Variables:  since service is situational, discuss acceptable variations, 5.  Guided Practice:  rehearse skills together, 6:  Spaced Repetition:  repeat the skills training over time until each employee “gets it,” and  7.  Teach Back:  have employees teach back lesson as an instructor.

4.   Charge the designated Training Manager with developing club-wide training topics.  Usually this would be done in cooperation with the HR Manager, Safety Manager, or other subject matter experts.  Club-wide topics include an overview of club amenities, facilities, and operation; member rules; employee rules and work-related policies; organizational culture; club operating systems; legal and liability issues; and leadership development.

Important point:  Keep in mind that while much of the information employees and managers must know is similar; there is often a different thrust to the material.  For example, line employees must know what to do if they feel they are being sexually harassed, while managers must understand the nuances of what constitutes sexual harassment, how to avoid it, and what to do if reported to them.

values-2Tip:  Many of these topics have been covered in materials found on the CRI website, for example:  Organizational Values, Readings in Basic Leadership and Management, Leadership on the Line, Managers Handbook, Employee Handbook, Club Safety Plan, and Training-on-the-Go (such as F&B Training-on-the-Go, Safety-on-the-Go, HR-on-the-Go, Values-on-the-Go), and Daily Huddle topics.

5.   New hire training starts with basic information such as job descriptions, performance expectations, club orientation and departmental orientations (they are different, though covering some of the same topics for reinforcement), employee handbook, and managers’ handbook.  Any plan to provide a more formal approach to training must include a review of, or if not already in place, the development of such documents to ensure they cover all pertinent topics and are fully integrated, that is, they are consistent and reinforcing.

Tip:  Again, a good starting point for these documents is the material on the CRI website.  Follow the links above to check out the material.  Download or purchase the material and customize it for your own use.

Other Tips:

  • Experience has shown that critical information provided in small doses over time (hence the training-on-the-go material) is the best way to provide ongoing training at the lowest cost. Instead of specially scheduled, on-the-clock training sessions, some sort of pre-shift meeting for every department and shift is an excellent way to do this. The key here is to have a pre-developed, organized system of material, so that managers can take advantage of such meetings without having to jump through hoops to find and develop topics. Keep in mind that once such material is developed, it is available for future use with little or no effort.
  • Because of the one-time intensity of developing or gathering training material, this project should be done during the club’s “off season.” But to maximize the effectiveness of this limited time, the initial planning and timelines should be completed prior to the slow season to ensure that everyone “hits the ground running” when things slow down.
  • Training resources can be found anywhere. The advent of the Internet and search engines makes it relatively easy and convenient to find training material for almost any topic or position. Some will be free and some will cost, but once department heads determine topics, they should begin searching for relevant material.
  • Presenting the material in a professional manner is key! Do not hand your employees a 3-ringed binder filled with odd sheets of copied information. Efforts must be made to eliminate contradictory terminology and information written by different authors. Spend the time and effort to present it professionally — each topic should be presented in a common format with appropriate context, segue, and without extraneous information. You wouldn’t present such a jumble of information to your members, and you shouldn’t do it to your employees who you depend upon for your success.

As an aside:  the beauty of the Internet material is that is can be copied, pasted, and edited in your own formatted documents.  Also, when preparing training material, don’t forget to develop quizzes.  They can be used for formal comprehension testing or during informal teaching Q&As by supervisors.

  • Developing and fielding training information is an ongoing process. Review material over time, adding to it and improving it as you go. Ask employees to give you feedback on the adequacy and effectiveness of the material — ultimately they are the best judges of what’s useful and what’s not.

Developing a comprehensive training plan and program is probably one of the most challenging things your club will do, but the time, cost, and effort is well worthwhile.  Over the long haul, the effort you put into developing the professionalism of your staff and improving the quality of service at your club will have far reaching positive effects on member satisfaction and your bottom line.

Next Week:  Training Tools and Execution

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Training: The Achilles Heel of Club Operations, Part II

Monday, January 18th, 2010

I promised last week to offer strategies for training club employees, but I’d like to postpone that another week.  Instead I want to discuss the major issues of manager and supervisory training, since a poorly trained manager or supervisor can do far greater harm to your operation than a line employee by failing in any of the areas mentioned here.

  • Managers and supervisors direct your front line employees. If they don’t have a complete understanding of their duties and your expectations, your service message and vision for the operation will not be passed consistently to employees.
  • A management team with different leadership styles ranging from service-based, to military, to athletic, to collegial, to Neanderthal, will not interact with employees consistently or fairly — and consistency and fairness are touchstone issues in meeting the requirements of equal opportunity, discrimination, morale, and motivation. Ideally, an organization would have one management and leadership style, promulgated by the Board or General Manager and practiced uniformly by all managers and supervisors; anything less invites trouble.
  • A club’s organizational values and culture require constant reinforcement to all employees and must be consistently emphasized in word and deed to employees. Without appropriate manager training and development, the example and message will be inconsistent and confusing.
  • Managers and supervisors are your people with the answers. In addition to their job specific knowledge and skills, they must have a thorough understanding of all the club’s rules, regulations, work policies, member policies, administrative and accounting systems and procedures. Without training they cannot have a firm grasp of these complex and interrelated matters. Stop for a second and consider the problems that can be caused by two different managers giving conflicting direction or answers to employees or members.
  • Managers and supervisors act as agents of the club. If they do not have an in-depth understanding of all the laws and governmental regulations affecting your club, the club is open to liability issues and litigation. Examples include: the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Alcohol Law Enforcement regulations, Equal Opportunity issues, Sexual Harassment, Food Sanitation, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and others. While you may have experts in each of these matters on staff, their knowledge must be shared with other managers to avoid what could become significant problems for the club.  Throughout my career many of the most significant problems I faced were as a result of subordinate managers without a proper understanding of these important issues.
  • Ethics training for all managers. Some think this isn’t necessary, but experience shows this to be a naïve assumption.

To expect that different managers with different backgrounds and experiences from a variety of operational disciplines — golf, golf course maintenance, accounting, personnel, facility maintenance, food and beverage, membership, activities, tennis, and aquatics — will have a common understanding of and approach to leadership and management is foolish.

Bottom Line:  Without strong, stable, and consistent leadership and management at all levels of your club, your staff is a bunch of tribes, often at odds or in conflict — and this is no way to run a railroad, much less a club.

We’ll talk about strategies to train next week.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Training: The Achilles Heel of Club Operations

Monday, January 11th, 2010

 

Recognizing that we work in a detail-intensive business, most club managers understand that comprehensive and systematic training for both subordinate managers and line employees is an imperative.  Yet, the sad fact is that training is an afterthought in many operations, left up to department heads or front line supervisors to conceive, design, and implement.

Why is this so often the case?  I offer the following as some of the factors that make training so difficult for all of us:

  • First, is the standalone nature of most clubs. Busy managers have little time and, in some cases, lack the necessary skill set to design a comprehensive training curriculum for employees. Complicating this is the fact that club operations span many disciplines, including accounting, human resources, marketing, member relations, golf operations, food and beverage, aquatics, golf course maintenance, and other areas. Few, managers have the detailed knowledge of all these disciplines to design the well-integrated systems, policies, and procedures that cover all areas of the operation.
  • The general manager and management staff have not formally defined the standards of quality and service they wish to provide the membership. Without formal standards, how do they determine their training needs?
  • Given the many positions inherent in club operations, there is the need to develop a curriculum for each position to provide employees the appropriate skill set.  This is a daunting task, though focusing on critical member-facing positions is the first step.
  • In addition to individual skills training, employees must be trained in the club culture and values; laws affecting the workplace; employee work rules and policies; liability abatement training such as safety, sanitation, and public health; human resource issues such as sexual harassment, discrimination, conduct, and performance criteria; accounting policies and procedures relating to their work such as point of sale training, inventory procedures, and timekeeping; and all the club’s various organizational systems that allow it to function efficiently.
  • Managers at all levels must be trained in a variety of disciplines including leadership; club culture and values; various laws affecting club operations; club systems; accounting standards, policies, and procedures; human resource standards, policies, and procedures — to name a few.
  • Few clubs have a comprehensive training plan that guides subordinate managers in training standards, responsibilities, budgets, resources, and necessary curricula.
  • There is no easy way for the general manager to monitor training execution due to the lack, in most  clubs, of training administration software and training benchmarks. Short of attending each training session, how does the GM know who is training and meeting the ongoing requirements of a multi-faceted curriculum.
  • In times of tight budgets (and when is it ever not such a time?), the cost of every hour of training is multiplied by the number of employees being trained and their hourly wage — and this can have a significant impact on the bottom line.
  • The management staff does not have the will to make it happen given all the other management requirements, demands on their time, and competing priorities.
  • The club’s board, while demanding high service levels, does not understand the direct link between formal training and quality service or, even more importantly, the challenging task of designing and implementing an effective club-wide training program. In many cases, the general manager has not developed the training goals, assessments, plan, proposed budget, and “sold” the board on its necessity.

The bottom line on all these issues is that unless focused on and attended to religiously, they fall through the cracks.  While the training requirements of a well-run operation seem overwhelming, they can be effectively implemented by a variety of strategies which we’ll talk about next week.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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The Hierarchy of Service

Monday, January 4th, 2010

While Service-Based Leadership stresses that the leader must serve the needs of his or her constituencies, not all constituent needs have equal weight or importance.

Owners or shareholders are usually the smallest constituent group in numbers, but their needs are paramount.  Why?  Because it is their capital that has been invested in the enterprise and their need for return on investment that permits the continuation of the business.  If it is not making a profit, if it cannot gain credit based on a potential for future profit, if it cannot meet its cash needs for payroll or to pay vendors, it will quickly go out of business and the needs of all other constituencies will become irrelevant.

Obviously, a return on investment is important.  Consider why an owner would want to earn 2% in a business when he could invest his money in a less risky investment and earn a better return.  While there may be other reasons for continuing to own a business—such as prestige; a sense of obligation to family, community, or employees; or the expectation of improved future performance—over the long haul owners will not be willing to risk their capital on a poor-performing venture.

Next in order of importance are the needs of customers.  Without sufficient customers  patronizing the business, it will not be profitable or viable.  If not viable, it will not last long-and all constituencies lose.

Ultimately, customers are attracted by price and the quality of products and services.  Taken together, quality and price create a sense of value—the value perceived by customers.  If enough customers perceive value, they will frequent the enterprise to spend their money and will make it successful.  If not, the business will ultimately fail.

This statement brings us to our third constituency—the employees.  They are the ones who execute the owners’ vision for quality of product and service.  They are the ones whose daily interaction with customers creates the value customers seek.  Properly led, valued, and supported, employees will enthusiastically commit to serving the business’ customers thereby fostering levels of business that enable it to thrive.

Organizational Models

org-chrt-traditional-41The basis for the traditional hierarchical organizational model is the military concept of “chain of command.”  In this model, management is represented as the sequence of authority in executing the will of the owners—and certainly management plays that essential role.  But in addition to not representing the importance of customers, it also places the employees at the bottom of the chain—thereby visually relegating them to the position of least consequence.

pyramid3-2The Service-Based Organizational model depicts the importance of satisfying customers, as well as the important role of employees.  The organization’s leaders are placed at the bottom, clearly emphasizing their role in serving the needs of all constituencies.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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